December 21, 2003

Evil

In a few short paragraphs, Patrick Lasswell writes a creepy and highly original defense of the use of the word evil.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 21, 2003 10:21 PM
Comments

Michael,

Why the hell does the use of this word need to be defended? No other word in the language describes our enemies more perfectly. The fear of the "E" word - among other words - precisely demonstrates the total moral, intellectual and spiritual rot of the moonbat left. Why else would they fear certain words?

The BBC won't call Saddam a dictator. The left hates the word evil. You don't like it when I use the "T" word. We have a perfectly good language. We should be allowed to use it in full measure. The discomfort among some caused by the use of certain words says more about them than about the person using the words. Ultimately they fear words and language that reveal uncomfortable truths about themselves.

Posted by: HA at December 22, 2003 04:32 AM

I don't know why Patrick Lasswell defends the term merely as a crutch, not as a genuine reality. It needs to be defended against the view that it is a mere label without a real referent, designed by those in power to efface the reasons why the poor lash out. In other words, it needs to be defended against the view that all value structures are merely functions of economic forces. "Evil" by definition says "inexcusable" and is incompatible with this deconstructionistic nihilism. Protesting it's use takes the opposite view, a social virus designed by Marx.

Posted by: Jim at December 22, 2003 06:09 AM

My only problem with the world evil is its ineffectivness as propoganda and persuasion. It is not descriptive or precise in any way. It just means "really, really, really bad." Not that there aren't things and people that are really, really, really bad, but why not say more, rather than less, particularly when you are trying to persuade someone who doesn't agree with you or is uncommitted?

Posted by: markus rose at December 22, 2003 07:28 AM

I live in San Francisco and so you can imagine that the only images of the axis of evil I see are the T-shirts with the pictures of Bush, Cheney and Rice. I also hang out with psychologists, so you can further imagine the horror they feel at the infantile splitting that Dubya encourages with his simplistic swaths of good and evil, totally insensitive to cultural and historical variation...

But I have not failed to note clever boy that I am that the very people who are most shocked by GWB's ham-fisted ethics are the same people who are ever and for always involved in fighting the good fight against racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, looksism, speciesism, capitalism, and every other (to quote John Kerry) f**king -ism under the sun. These people are the consummate moralists who, ironically, deny the existence of evil and wind up willy-nilly apologizing for (pace the BBC) dictators.

I have always said that the only Christian doctrine which is capable of empirical proof and can in fact be proved by spending one day on this planet is Original Sin. The misnomer, however, is that the stuff is so not Original.

Posted by: Stephen at December 22, 2003 08:14 AM

Stephen,

I have the perfect word which would accurately characterize your friends - "elitism".

Sammy

Posted by: sammy small at December 22, 2003 10:09 AM

We have a perfectly good language. We should be allowed to use it in full measure.

The moral relativists, Leftist apologists, and Fifth Columnists are engaged in a concerted effort to dissipate our language and redefine our terms to suit there political agenda. Don't let them.

Don't be shamed into neglecting perfectly good words like 'terrorist', 'dictator', 'evil', etc. Or conversely, 'patriotism', 'God', 'freedom', etc.

They've used wordplay to redefine the truth, and RUN from the truth for far too long. Witness how Leftists became Liberals, who then became "Progressives".

They run from uncomfortable words, just as a roach skitters when you throw the lightswitch. Watch the Left run from one word to another, just like a roach skitters from one shadow to the next.

Fight the power. Don't let them co-opt the language to suit their agenda.

Posted by: David at December 22, 2003 11:57 AM

David -- The world does not suffer from too much moral relativism. It probably suffers from too little. Part of what makes doctrinaire leftists so insufferable is their insistence they know what is evil. They simply put John Ashcroft or Ariel Sharon at the top of the "evil" list, rather than Bin Laden or Yassir Arafat. Bin Laden, Hussein, Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, Don Rumsfeld, George Bush -- these and all other powerful people are absolutely convinced they know the difference between absolutely right and absolutely wrong.

There is nothing wrong with the word "evil", it just doesn't do much except beg further questions.

There is nothing wrong with any of the other words you mention either, except for the fact that people cannot agree on their definitions. That doesn't mean there are NO definitions to them, just that a democratic, LIBERAL society requires that these multiple views be tolerated and mutually respected to a degree.

Posted by: Markus rose at December 22, 2003 12:23 PM

The recently passed editor of the Wall Street Journal once explained to a dictionary-grammar obsessesed critic of his editorials something along these lines: "The dictionary exists to explain grammatic usages invented by people like me."

While I am not about to defend Bush's many malapropisms or his pronunciation of 'nuclear', it is worth pointing out that when the most powerful man in the world uses a term repeatedly and with intent, his usage becomes a definition for the term. Now, if the writers of dictionaries ruled the world, this would be different. (And spelling bees would become terrifying struggles for power...)

In the world we have, the word "evil" means something because Geo. Bush & Co. use it consistently to define a behavior and a situation. Regardless of anything else, this term has meaning because they have given it meaning. That nobody has put together a credible moral defense of those he calls evil is a big clue that perhaps his semantics are not so far off as his domestic dictionary debaters.

If he wants to use the word as a crutch, so be it. I would certainly use all the help I could get if I was in his position.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at December 22, 2003 12:43 PM

"Evil" is a nice old word that has been around long enough to be completely understood. "Doers of evil", a phrase that Lefties like to poke fun of, is taken from the Koran; it is a phrase that "resonates" (to use a postmodern term) with the actual doers of evil.

Saddam and his minions have explored all too well the thousand aspects of evil that man can inflict on his fellow man. For Bush to elaborate - as Lasswell seems to suggest - is simply unneccessary.

Posted by: Mike at December 22, 2003 03:16 PM

I agree with markus rose but then I also think that Bush's use of "axis of evil" was effective with, for instance, dissident Iranians.

Just as Reagan's "evil empire" struck me and my friends at the time as unsophisticated demagoging but was heard with very different ears by Czechs and Hungarians and Poles.

Posted by: miklos rosza at December 22, 2003 05:13 PM

Markus,

Evil has a moral dimension that "really, really, really, bad" doesn't. I can describe Saddam as both "evil" and "bad." Both fit. But characterizing him as "evil" compels us to action in a way that characterizing him as "really, really, really, bad" doesn't. Evil is not only adjective, but a noun. It is a force that must be confronted by an opposing force. Bad is a mere adjective.

Also, "bad" has less meaning and is therefore more broadly applicable. I can say I have a bad toothache, but not an evil toothache. As painful as my tooth may be, it cannot be evil. The word "evil" has a finer granularity than "bad" does.

The reason the left hates the word "evil" is the moral dimension and compulsion to action it implies. The left wants to engage in moral posturing rather than solve problems. That is why they found themselves in the morally compromised position of defending Saddam's regime.

Posted by: HA at December 23, 2003 04:48 AM

HA -- You are right "evil" is a word that relates to the being, or essential nature, of the person or object that is designated with it. It describes who or what someone or something IS rather than what it DOES. In this sense, it is a stronger word and a deeper insult than "bad." And since one's "being" is generally thought to be set as in stone, once someone is "evil", then he/she is always "evil." I guess that makes Gaddafi "really bad" as opposed to "evil." Or so we hope.

I don't see how this has anything to do with why the Left had blinders on about Saadam. To the contrary, it was the moral absolutism of the Left -- its insistence on seeing the United States in general and Bush and the Republicans in particular as unalterably EVIL -- that made it impossible for its members to realize that in this case, and at this time, the US and Bush was engaged in a just cause.

Other examples of leftist moral absolutism are support for speech codes and other examples of excessive political correctness, as well as the support of most leftists for undemocratic judicial decisions that legalize contentious matters such as abortion and, perhaps soon, gay marriage, instead of subjecting them to legislative debate and democratic decisionmaking.

The Left that you speak of, to its discredit, loves the word "evil" as much as you do.

A side comment. A good way to get a moral absolutist of a judeo-christian tradition to quickly become a moral relativist is to ask why biblical law endorsed polygamy, slavery, and a criminal justice system that proscribed capital punishment for adultery and swearing.

Posted by: markus rose at December 23, 2003 07:23 AM

Markus,

The moral codes of the Bible are not relative. Do good, be a good person, love your God, be fair towards others. That does not change. But the ethical manifestation of that will change from age to age. Just as the Founding Fathers were moral men in their time, today some of their practices would cause us horror. Conversely, a 21st century man's moral life would horrify them.

To my knowledge the Bible doesn't "endorse" slavery, nor polygamy. Those were universal practices of the time, and some Biblical characters engaged in it. In fact, the Bible strongly insinuates polygamy is wrong (see the story of Solomon) and is specific that a man is "one flesh" with his wife. You can't be "one flesh" with more than one woman. Indeed, most jews and christians disagree with YOUR interpretation of the Bible regarding polygamy, but that doesn't make them "moral relativists." They don't believe the Bible tells them what it's telling you.

Regarding the issue of slavery, they were household members, could marry into the family, and inherit. The slaves of the Israelites were not the Kunta Kintes of the ancient world. Again, no christian or jew that I know believes the Bible "endorses" slavery, so again, no "moral relativism."

Regarding capital punishment for adultery and "swearing", see paragraph one.

Posted by: David at December 23, 2003 08:12 AM

David -- What you are saying is that different times permit or compel one to engage in "different ethical manifestations" of a morality that you insist is somehow enduring. What is and what is not permitted depends on time, place and circumstance. Don't you agree that different Christians can have different understandings of what is required as today's ethical manifestations? A very relativistic argument.

You also state that the Bible has a moral hierarchy: some practices like polygamy or slavery are (perhaps) frowned upon but nevertheless accepted, while other practices like homosexuality, adultery, not keeping the Saabath, or worshiping graven images (all "universal practices of the time" as well) are intolerable abominations. Do the 21st Century ethical manifestations that you endorse require this same hierarchy, or different ones? Do you think that homosexuality, or refusing to keep the Saabath is a bigger abomination than slavery?

Posted by: markus rose at December 23, 2003 08:49 AM

Markus,

To the contrary, it was the moral absolutism of the Left -- its insistence on seeing the United States in general and Bush and the Republicans in particular as unalterably EVIL

No, it is the relativism of the left that compels them to demonize Bush, Republicans and America. To unburden themselves from moral responsibility, the left must draw equivalence between good and evil. America was just as bad as the USSR was. Bush is just as bad as Saddam. If both sides are equally bad, they don't have to choose. This is pure relativism.

Posted by: HA at December 23, 2003 10:40 AM

The leftists you speak of did in fact choose. They rejected the idea that Bush and Saadam were equally bad -- and took the moral responsibility for deciding that Bush was worse. People who think that "both sides are equally bad" are not interested in politics, or are indifferent. Which side did YOU take in the Iran/Iraq War?

Accusing leftists of moral relativism is as ridiculous as accusing Bin Laden of the same thing. If leftists were not so limited by their excessive moral absolutism, they would be able to consider the facts surrounding the overthrow of the Hussein regime more objectively and perhaps they would change their minds.

Posted by: markus rose at December 23, 2003 12:33 PM

Markus,

I think it boils down to which leftists you are talking about. Your assesment fits the fringe like ANSWER and their ilk. I'm referring more to the Establishment Media, academics and their disciples that hoisted concepts like postmodernism and multiculturalism on us. You know, the BBC, NY Times, Patty Murray, "why do they hate us" crowd.

Posted by: HA at December 23, 2003 02:21 PM

Markus,

I found it hard to put into words what I was thinking, but I think you understood me correctly, so I appreciate it.

I also think your questions are fair and pertinent, even though I'm quite conservative on these issues. But I don't think a blog is the place to do such issues justice.

My only point was that what may seem like "moral relativism" to you, isn't really.

Posted by: David at December 23, 2003 03:57 PM

If leftists were not so limited by their excessive moral absolutism, they would be able to consider the facts surrounding the overthrow of the Hussein regime more objectively and perhaps they would change their minds.

...and if conservatives were not so blinded by the hagiography, they would be able to consider the facts surrounding the naked assault on the US Constitution and perhaps they would change their minds.

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